It depends.

I invested in an MBA in International Business for those 2 words.

It became a running joke, that we would conclude every session with ‘it depends’.  And I see how often leaders who I work with, particularly those in highly political, multicultural, hierarchical, complex institutions such as the United Nations, will default to this answer.

And they are right.  It does depend.  Context is important.

And generally this response is only interesting if it is invitation for nuance. A call to further delve into actually “what does it depend on?”  Yet how often is it used as a sweeping statement to avoid reflection or responsibility?

Powerful and powerless

We are both powerful and powerless co-creators.

There is so much out of our control. So many factors influencing our behaviour from millions of years of conditioning to our nervous systems being affected by pollutants and toxins in innumerable and unknowledgeable ways.

And yet, I think to focus on what we can control, what is in our sphere of influence, what we can choose, is liberating and empowering.  To ‘control the controllables’. Even if it is a little scary.

We are here. On this spinning planet, in this moment in history. The common denominator on our journey, with all its richness, joys and pains, dramas and events is… us.

Self inquiry

So when a leader or coachee will say ‘it depends’, I invite them to take a pause and look within.  To see if there are patterns that emerge, and what can then be explored further. Try it for yourself if you catch yourself saying it.

It may just depend on:


  • Your way of showing up. How present are you really?


  • Your skills and heartset. How well do you really listen?  How often are you distracted or deeply attentive?


  • Your patterns of thought, your mindset and way of seeing in the world. How often do you question your own beliefs? Do you even know where they originated from in the first place? What do you do to train and expand your own mind?


  • Your mood: How well do you look after yourself? How much care do you give to your diet, sleep and play?


  • Your emotional intelligence. How somatically aware are you? What conscious practices have you developed over time to self regulate?


  • Your connections and relationships. What are you doing to cultivate a deeper connection with yourself, others and the earth that is our home?


  • Your ‘core wounds’ or your soul’s desire. To what extent do you attend to either?


It may depend on any number of factors.  Only you can know what is true for you.

Our beloved Thich Nhat Hanh would say, “we have more possibilities in any moment than we realise”.   

It does depend on you, whether you can see and feel into those possibilities and what you do as a result.


For a conversation with Penelope at earthconverse, contact her here 

Photo by Johanser Martinez on Unsplash

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